Skip to main content

Watch the key moments from Virgin Orbit’s successful rocket launch

Virgin Orbit launched a rocket from a converted passenger jet on Wednesday, June 30, sending a payload of small satellites into low Earth orbit.

The successful mission marked the official start of Virgin Orbit’s commercial service for small-satellite launches.

The Virgin Orbit team successfully demonstrated the system in a launch in January, with Wednesday’s Tubular Bells: Part One mission following largely the same procedure.

The jumbo jet, called Cosmic Girl, carried the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing. Once it reached its launch altitude, the rocket blasted into space to deploy payloads for three customers from three countries: The U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program, Polish satellite firm SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Virgin Orbit livestreamed the key stages of the successful mission. You can watch them in the clips below.

It started with the Boeing 747 departing the Mojave Air and Space Port in California and heading out over the Pacific.

Tubular Bells: Part One Livestream | Virgin Orbit

Once the jet reached an altitude of just 0ver 30,000 feet, the LauncherOne rocket detached from the aircraft’s wing, ignited, and then blasted into space.

Here's a glimpse of rocket drop today from the cameras onboard our flying launchpad, Cosmic Girl. ✈️#TubularBells

— Virgin Orbit (@VirginOrbit) June 30, 2021

Stage separation took place at 335,000 feet.

Tubular Bells: Part One Livestream | Virgin Orbit

This was followed by the fairing coming away from the rocket at an altitude of 387,000 feet.

Tubular Bells: Part One Livestream | Virgin Orbit

Finally, Virgin Orbit tweeted what appeared to be the satellite deployment.

There is no greater sight in the world. Or off it.

Congratulations to our three customers on a perfect start to their missions. #TubularBells

— Virgin Orbit (@VirginOrbit) June 30, 2021

“It was such a special moment to stand on the flight line with the wonderful team and celebrate as Virgin Orbit flew to space for the second time, launching all seven customer satellites into orbit,” Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson wrote in a message posted soon after the mission ended.

Branson added: “Many people told us it was impossible: Launching a rocket from underneath the wing of an adapted Virgin Atlantic 747 airplane at 30,000 feet and soaring to space at 17,500 mph to drop off satellites into orbit.”

Virgin Orbit will compete with the likes of SpaceX and Rocket Lab, who use more conventional ground-based rocket launches to get their customers’ satellites into space.

Indeed, Branson noted in his message that Virgin Orbit’s special launch platform marks it out from others in the industry.

“This unique way of launching is what makes Virgin Orbit different [from] its competitors — we are the only launch company that can go anytime, from anywhere, to any orbit,” he said. “Launching from the air means we can provide a light, fast, flexible, and affordable satellite launch system. Using a 747 airplane and a runway rather than a launch pad means we can take a route to space from any airport in the world.”

In fact, the company has partnerships in place for rocket flights from the Pacific island of Guam, as well as Cornwall in the U.K., while it’s also in talks with officials in Japan, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi with a view to launching from those locations, too.

Virgin Orbit’s next mission is expected to take place sometime this year before launches ramp up in 2022.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
How to watch three astronauts launch to the ISS on Friday
This bottom up view shows the Soyuz MS-24 rocket’s first stage boosters as the spacecraft stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

On Friday, September 15, a crew of three astronauts will be launching on a Russian Soyuz rocket headed for the International Space Station (ISS). The trio comprises NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, who will be flying in the Soyuz MS-24 mission and will spend approximately six months aboard the orbiting space station before returning to Earth.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

Read more
SpaceX gets big hint from FAA on next Starship launch opportunity
SpaceX testing an engine on its Starship spacecraft.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk is keen to send its next-generation Starship rocket on what will be its second crewless test mission after the first one ended spectacularly minutes after launch in April.

But first SpaceX has to receive a launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Read more
Scientists ‘hack’ Solar Orbiter’s camera to get a better look at the sun
Scientists have used the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) in a new mode of operation to record part of the Sun’s atmosphere that has been almost impossible to image until now. By covering the Sun’s bright disc with an ‘occulter’ inside the instrument, EUI can detect the million-times fainter ultraviolet light coming from the surrounding corona.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Solar Orbiter spacecraft is performing a long series of flybys of various planets to bring it closer and closer to the sun on each pass. It will eventually come within 26 million miles to observe the sun up close, and enter in the orbit of Mercury. It will be the closet a camera has ever gotten to the sun, in order to take detailed images of the sun's corona and its local environment.

A new way to view the Sun

Read more